Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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13 Ellul 5763 - September 10, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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American Agudah Petitions President Bush on Pollard
by Yated Ne'eman Staff

President George W. Bush received a detailed letter from Agudath Israel of America laying out reasons for why imprisoned spy Jonathan J. Pollard, currently serving a life sentence for spying, deserves a pardon from the US President.

Pollard had a hearing in U.S. District Court on September 2 on legal motions by his lawyers, who are seeking access to certain classified materials relevant to their client's case, as well as an opportunity to press their contention that he was denied effective assistance of counsel in the proceeding that led to his life sentence in 1987. Agudath Israel took the opportunity to renew its longstanding advocacy to the President of the United States -- advocacy stretching back to the presidency of George H. W. Bush, and continuing through the years of the Clinton administration -- for a commutation of Mr. Pollard's sentence.

While acknowledging the seriousness of the crime for which Mr. Pollard was convicted, the Agudath Israel letter, written by executive vice president for government and public affairs Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, notes that the country for which Mr. Pollard spied was, and is, a staunch ally: Israel. Moreover, Mr. Zwiebel added, the espionage took place at a time of peace and, in the light of a recent report by a knowledgeable analyst, did not compromise the security of American agents abroad, as has been implied over the years.

What is more, the letter notes, the sentence of life in prison that Mr. Pollard received after entering into a plea bargain with the government "seems entirely out of line with those received by other convicted spies."

The Agudath Israel presentation notes two other salient points about the Pollard case: the fact that the government, in a variety of ways, did not play fair in the process leading up to the sentencing; and the fact that Mr. Pollard was victimized by his own attorney's "shoddy lawyering" at the time. Mr. Pollard is currently represented by different counsel.

Thus, Agudath Israel maintains, "It is fair to assume that Pollard is still sitting in jail today only because both the government and his lawyer deviated from the norms that characterize our system and sense of American justice.

"There is something very wrong with that picture, and we respectfully ask you to set it right."

The particular legal issues that were the subject of the hearing, Agudath Israel points out, are obviously issues for the court to decide. However, wrote Mr. Zwiebel, "The genius of our constitutional system is that the Chief Executive has the power, entirely independent of the courts, to act in a humanitarian manner that upholds our nation's most noble traditions of fair play and compassionate justice."

Thanking the President for his consideration of Agudath Israel's plea, and for his "courageous leadership of our great nation," the letter asserts that "the time has come" for executive clemency of Jonathan Pollard and a commutation of his sentence.


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